A wave of car bombings, mainly targeting cafés and markets around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killed nearly 80 people Saturday out celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.
The death toll in Saturday's attacks is the highest since July 20, when brazen assaults on two prisons near Baghdad plus other attacks left 71 dead.
Violence has been on the rise across Iraq since a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April, and attacks against civilians and security forces notably spiked during Ramadan. The surge of attacks has sparked fears that the country could spiral into a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
Police said the deadliest of Saturday's attacks took place when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a residential area in the town of Tuz Khormato, killing eight people and wounding dozens, Mayor Shalal Abdool said. The town is about 200 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital.
Police said a car bomb exploded near an outdoor market in the Baghdad's southeastern suburbs of Jisr Diyala shortly before sunset, killing seven people and wounding 20.
Also in southeastern Baghdad, officials said a car bomb went off inside a parking lot in the mainly Shia New Baghdad neighbourhood, killing three people.
Saif Mousa, the owner of a shoe store in New Baghdad, said he was sitting inside his shop when he heard the explosion.
"My shop's windows were smashed and smoke filled the whole area," Mousa said. "I went outside of the shop and I could hardly see because of the smoke. ... At the end, we had a terrible day that was supposed to be nice" because of the holiday.
Another car bomb exploded in a busy street in the Shia neighbourhood of Amil, killing three people and wounding 14, authorities said. They said another car bomb in Amil killed 3 people and wounded 14.
Multiple explosions within an hour
In the holy Shia city of Karbala, police said four people were killed in a car bomb attack near a café at night. Karbala is 80 kilometres south of Baghdad.
Police said four people were killed and 15 wounded when a car bomb exploded near a café in Baghdad's Shia neighbourhood of Abu Dashir.
In northern Baghdad, a car bomb hit a restaurant in the Shia area of Khazimiyah, killing five people and wounding 14, authorities said. Police also said that five people were killed when a car bomb exploded near a café in Baghdad's southwestern neighbourhood of Baiyaa.
Six people were killed and 15 were wounded in a car bomb explosion in the Shia neighbourhood of Shaab in northeastern Baghdad, officials said.
A car bomb hit near restaurant in the city's northeastern suburb of Husseiniyah, killing seven people and wounding 15, police said.
Also, a car bomb explosion a commercial street in the Dora area in southern Baghdad killed five and wounded 15, authorities said.
Police officials said that all those attacks took place within an hour. Security forces and Shias have been favourite targets for insurgents.
Earlier in the day, four people, including two children, were killed when a bomb exploded near a park just south of Baghdad, authorities said.
Later, a car bomb exploded in a busy street in Nasiriyah city in southern Iraq, killing four people and wounding 41 others, officials said. Nasiriyah is about 320 kilometres southeast of Baghdad.
In the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a car bomb hit near a Shia mosque, killing one person and wounding 20 others, police said.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures for all the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to journalists.
Iraqi security forces have stepped up patrols and checkpoints to protect people during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan. This year's Ramadan was the most violence since 2007, with 671 people killed.